Whether you like “Support Group for Men,” a new play by Ellen Fairey, author of the highly successful “Graceland” and “Girl 20,”may depend on how you feel about comical TV sitcoms that are funny because they reveal underlying insecurities. No stranger to television, Fairey was a writer/producer on “Nurse Jackie and is executive co-producer of “The Sinner.”
Fairey’s play artificially brings together four ethnically and culturally diverse guys who encourage each other to reveal their problems and thoughts during their weekly Thursday night get together. Some of them are finding it hard to keep up with or adjust to all the changing movements and attitudes.
The facilitators are a fraternity-like ritual with supposedly American Indian tribal overtones and a bat they call a stick covered with supposedly native-American decorations.
They hold the stick to feel comfortable about talking because anyone holding the stick is not supposed to be interrupted or receive judgmental comments from the others.
In addition to what is originally said, when other characters enter the mix then questions and thoughts about gender preferences and identification, women’s movements, dating, life, death, loneliness, expectations and jobs are raised and examined.
So even folks who may not care for contrived situations should find aspects they appreciate and also dislike.
Playing now at Goodman Theatre, ”Support Group” drew applause opening night in response to one character’s negative Trump Tower remark and elicited deadly silence among Goodman’s patrons when a couple of characters negatively referred to Winnetka.
The action takes place in the apartment of Brian (Ryan Kitley), the oldest guy working at a particular Apple store.
His friends are Roger (Keith Kupferer) who cleans “The Bean,” (Anish Kapoor’s “Cloud Gate”) and has trouble with his reflection, Delano (Anthony Irons), an Oak Park resident who objects to being considered the groups “token” black, and Kevin (Tommy Rivera-Vega), a young, hip, Apple employee on his way up in the store’s hierarchy.
Brian’s apartment sits above a bar on the border of Wrigelyville and Boys Town that makes the later entry by the dress and red-wig wearing Alex (Jeff Kurysz) and his tangle with two guys who object to his outfit, believable.
Throw in two cops who stop in the apartment to collect fight witness statements and you have two unlikely additions to the various interactions (not saying what to avoid an alert). Sadieh Rifal is the female Officer Caruso and Eric Slater is her partner, Officer Nowak. .
Jack Magaw’s set design and Jen Schriever’s lighting perfectly capture the closeness of the “L” and alley, the apartment’s different rooms and the psychedelic space feeling when the guys trip out.
Noel Huntzinger’s costumes help set the characters’ personal style such as the trades’ workman look of Roger who puts down Brian’s French Rosé as pink wine.
Directed by Kimberly Senior, the action’s pace is right on, as are the actor’s character interpretations.
All the problems raised during the stick’s revealing times are neatly tied up by the end of the play. After-all, this sit-com-style play isn’t part of a continuing series.
DETAILS: “Support Group For Men” is in the Albert Theatre at Goodman Theatre, 170 N. Dearborn St., Chicago. Running time: 90 minutes, no intermission. For tickets and other information call (312) 443-3899 and visit Goodman Theatre.
For more shows visit Theatre in Chicago